Depending on who you ask, Mulla Nasreddin is notorious not just for his wisdom but also for his folly. No matter what he did or didn’t do, something new could always be learned from his insights and actions.
One day the Mulla decided to cut a long, thick branch off a tree in his front garden. The branch blocked the surrounding view from his neighbor’s house and his neighbor had been complaining to him on a daily basis.
Though the Mulla was tired that morning and didn’t feel much like working, he was also very tired of hearing his neighbor complain. So he finally took his saw, climbed as carefully as he could up the tree, sat down (facing the tree) on the branch that was causing the problem with his neighbor, and began sawing. As he did so, a stranger passing by noticed him, stopped, looked more closely, and then shouted out: “Hey there. If you continue sitting where you’re sitting and sawing that branch, you’re going to fall down with it. I suggest that you get closer to the tree trunk, turn to face away from the tree, and finish cutting the branch off in front of you so that when the branch falls, you won’t.”
Now, considering himself a wise man in his own right (after all, didn’t many people come to him for advice?), Nasreddin resented being told what to do. “Thanks for the advice, but I know what I’m doing,” he replied without even stopping for a moment to consider the logic of what the man had said, while thinking to himself that he didn’t really appreciate people going around telling other people what they should and shouldn’t do, and that he really wanted to finish the job so he could go back into his house and take a nap.
In growing irritation that this stranger had the audacity to tell him, the incomparable Mulla Nasreddin, what to do, he began to saw much faster. A few minutes later, when the branch finally gave way, Nasreddin suddenly found himself in a heap on the ground, still on top of the branch he had been cutting.
Startled, in pain everywhere, and confused about what had happened, the first thought that came into his mind was, “My God! that man knows the future.” He was going to run after him to ask him other important questions about his future, incuding when he would die, but the man was nowhere to be seen. “Well, that’s okay,” the Mulla said to himself. “I’m sure he’ll pass this way again. I’ll ask him then.” He then went back inside and took a long nap.
(Retold by Dennis Lewis from the vast panoply of Mulla Nasreddin stories. Illustration from Wikipedia.)